ELDER NEWS: 11 November 2009
Elderblog List Update – November 2009

Health Care Reform and Women's Rights

category_bug_politics.gif When the House of Representatives passed their version of a health care reform bill last Saturday, the shocker for me was the Stupak amendment (full text here) which would bar anyone using the new tax credits from purchasing policies that include coverage for abortion procedures.

This amendment accomplishes exactly what many in the right wing say they fear from reform legislation: government coming between doctors and their patients. Further, since the tax credits – subsidies – are available only to those whose employers do not provide health coverage, the limitation falls primarily on the shoulders of poor women. And, obviously, it singles out women for discrimination.

There are exemptions in the Stupak amendment for pregnancy as a result of rape or incest and for “physical disorder, physical injury or physical illness that would...place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.” Note well that placing a woman's health in danger is not among the exemptions.

But why are we even discussing this? Abortion is legal. There is no place in any legislation for any restriction on it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Roman Catholic Church in America has forcefully injected itself into the health care debate.

"'The Catholic bishops came in at the last minute and drew a line in the sand,' said Laurie Rubiner, vice president for public policy at the abortion-rights advocacy group Planned Parenthood. 'It's very hard to compete with that,'" she told the Journal.

Lest we forget, the Journal also reminds us:

“The bishops have a history of political activism. In the 2004 presidential race, some bishops said they would refuse to grant communion to Democratic nominee John Kerry, a Catholic who favored abortion rights. In 2005, the bishops' conference backed efforts by then-President George W. Bush and Republican lawmakers to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case. But rarely has the church entered the fray with such decisive force [as now].”

Whether the Catholic Church withholds sacraments is not a public issue, nor was the Terri Shiavo case – until the government and the Church made it one.

With all that in mind, here are some questions I've been thinking about:

Since Roe v. Wade is still in force and abortion is a legal medical procedure, how can Congress pass legislation that forbids federal funding of it? In doing so, are they not violating their oath of office? Would not such a law be automatically null?

Given the admitted lobbying efforts of the Catholic Bishops in support of the Stupak amendment, doesn't the amendment – the government – force non-Catholics into living by the edicts of the Catholic Church and therefore violate the doctrine of separation of church and state?

How is the Stupak amendment different from, for example, disallowing food stamps to be used for the purchase of pork in keeping with Jewish and Muslim law?

Has anyone else noticed that the Stupak amendment sponsors and the Catholic Bishops are all men deciding what women can do with their bodies?

Is Congress really going to allow the rest of the health care reform debate to revolve around an issue that has no place in government?

There is a petition addressed to President Obama, House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid requesting that the Stupak amendment be removed from health care reform legislation. You can make your voice heard here:

The newest episode of Life (Part 2) is available online – about age and spirituality this time. Here is host Bob Lipsyte's monologue from the program:

You can watch the entire episode here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Chocolate Love


I don't know how much good these petitions do, but I have signed it with a personal comment.

The Catholic Bishops meddling in our politics is no different than the Taliban denying their women freedom. Any time a religious doctrine is inserted into the law making body it bodes ill for our country and for the citizens.

The first time a MAN has to carry a baby and give birth after nine months will be the time women will have equal rights under the law.

Don't hold your breath.

I have a question about the topic of abortion not being included in the passed health care reform bill which it appears you are opposed to.

Before this reformed healthcare bill, could a woman get an abortion and have her health insurance pay for it?

If your answer is YES then by all means, it should be allowed for in the new reformed bill.

If your answer is NO, then in my opinion it should not be allowed in this new bill.

That's all I have to say about the matter.

I too have signed the petition and added this comment:

"This amendment is outrageous, discriminatory, and unconstitutional. How dare you let the Catholic Church and/or any other religious group limit the reproductive health care available to the women citizens of this country. Do you not understand the doctrine of separation of church and state?

This amendment had nothing to do with health care and all to do with forcing the church's religious views on all American citizens. This is wrong and you know it. Remove this amendment from the bill now."

Abortion is covered by the average policy today in answer to an above question.

I signed the petition, including comment; tweeted it and added it to my Facebook.


I was glad to see today that MoveOn was collecting $$ for a couple of women Congressmembers who had voted against the Stupak amendment and for health care reform, Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio) and Carol Hodes (NH). They are vulnerable to being targeted for sticking up for women.

I am ashamed of my church.

We are supposed to have separation of church and state in this country and it would behoove those old men to shut the hell up.

The bishops do not speak for all Catholics. A friend and I attended a lecture over in Pittsburgh by a priest/scholar who has been researched this issue and made excellent sense. I wish I could find the excerpt from the treatise he wrote regarding

The Christian right takes the same stance and lobbies their agenda but they weren't mentioned. Why? Y'all know they've raised as much hell about this as the Bishops.

I decided long ago that the issue of abortion is between a woman and her God and her conscience. I never had an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy so I have no idea what such women endure. I also think that men have no say so on abortion because while they may cause an unwanted pregnancy, they will never, ever have one.

Having spoken with several health professionals in my circle of acquaintance, I know that "back alley" abortions still happen and that, my friends, is a travesty.

Morality cannot be legislated and when it is, it creates more problems than there were in the first place. Prohibition proved that.

That our legislators pay more attention to the Bishops than they do to their constituents really nags at me.

Abortion or not isn't a legislative issue. I don't believe government has any business making laws about it. This is a matter between a woman and her doctor.

Religious groups are perfectly welcome to espouse their views to their followers, but they have no business forcing those views on everyone else.

I worked for many years during the so-called women's movement for equality for females. I was appalled that abortion became a political football and loomed large as the most important issue when so many millions of women were ignored in gaining equality when the federal ERA was not ratified.

The so-called right wing was used by the Republican Party and many churches have pulled out of the Republican right-wing network because of that.

We must not let single issues lead us astray from the innumerable issues regarding the equality of women.

Even today women get twenty cents less on the dollar than men do.
There are many other inequalities that have not been addressed.

We need to move on from the focus on abortion alone and include the whole gamut of issues involving women's rights and the need to improve the lives of women as well as men who are low on the male totem pole of power.

I am surprised by how small the comments numbers are on this post. Does that mean people are in agreement with the amendment or that their objections to it have already be addressed here?

la peregrina--Perhaps others, as do I, believe that our positions have been well stated by others or that comments on a blog are unlikely to sway our legislators. Personally, I strongly support your own statement and those of Darlene and Kay and Joared and Chancy and JaninSanFran and Georgie and, of course, the original posting by Ronni.

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